Wayward Reproductions

Genealogies of Race and Nation in Transatlantic Modern Thought

Wayward Reproductions

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

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Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 3 b&w photos Published: June 2004

American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory, Race and Indigeneity

Wayward Reproductions breaks apart and transfigures prevailing understandings of the interconnection among ideologies of racism, nationalism, and imperialism. Alys Eve Weinbaum demonstrates how these ideologies were founded in large part on what she calls “the race/reproduction bind”––the notion that race is something that is biologically reproduced. In revealing the centrality of ideas about women’s reproductive capacity to modernity’s intellectual foundations, Weinbaum highlights the role that these ideas have played in naturalizing oppression. She argues that attention to how the race/reproduction bind is perpetuated across national and disciplinary boundaries is a necessary part of efforts to combat racism.

Gracefully traversing a wide range of discourses––including literature, evolutionary theory, early anthropology, Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis––Weinbaum traces a genealogy of the race/reproduction bind within key intellectual formations of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She examines two major theorists of genealogical thinking—Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault—and unearths the unacknowledged ways their formulations link race and reproduction. She explores notions of kinship and the replication of racial difference that run through Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work; Marxist thinking based on Friedrich Engel’s The Origin of the Family; Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection; and Sigmund Freud’s early studies on hysteria. She also describes W. E. B. Du Bois’s efforts to transcend ideas about the reproduction of race that underwrite citizenship and belonging within the United States. In a coda, Weinbaum brings the foregoing analysis to bear on recent genomic and biotechnological innovations.


“Alys Eve Weinbaum’s accomplishment in this dense scholarly study is to explore the matrix of meanings springing from the linguistic unit reproduction.” — Susan Squier , Hypatia

“This text offers stimulating and challenging contributions to the history of gendered and racialized thought in Europe and North America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. . . . Grounded in revealing close reading, a sound sense of the history of ideas, and a deft touch with concepts, this book is a valuable contribution to intellectual history, feminist scholarship, and cultural analysis.” — Joanna de Groot, Journal of the History of Sexuality

“Weinbaum contends that since the transatlantic history of reproduction and belonging is mired in race and nation, we do better to face our mixtures. For this,Weinbaum’s reading of Du Bois provides an exemplary model, one that reaches out.” — Patricia Moynagh , Political Theory

"All of Weinbaum's essays explore a range of texts with subtlety to reach nuanced conclusions. Wayward Reproductions is of interest to artists, writers, and scientists for its thoughtful exposure of historical roots of ideologies that (mis-, or dis-) inform our assumptions of race, gender, and society today."
— Michael R. Mosher , Leonardo Reviews

"By moving across an array of academic disciplines and national contexts, Alys Eve Weinbaum reshapes our thinking about the role of race and reproduction in the formation of national identity." — Julie Holcomb , Itinerario

“Alys Eve Weinbaum offers an array of transformative reassessments of major canonical texts of literature, social theory, and science, marking the heretofore unrecognized centrality of what she calls the ‘race/reproduction bind’ to these texts. Wayward Reproductions is an important book with substantial political as well as scholarly implications.” — Miranda Joseph, author of Against the Romance of Community

“I cannot imagine a more ambitious or important project. Wayward Reproductions provides new and exciting readings and interpretations of some of the foundational texts of modern intellectual thought. Alys Eve Weinbaum theorizes reproduction as a concept that weaves race and sex together and in so doing constructs or resists nationalism.” — Gail Bederman, author of Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917

“What is very brilliant about this book is the way it opens readers’ eyes to specific ways of seeing the work of racialization and its distinctive role in ideas of nationalism not only within a number of classic texts but also in the critical traditions built up around them. The object lesson here is a very politically powerful one.” — Sarah Franklin, coeditor of Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alys Eve Weinbaum is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Geneaology Unbound: Reproduction and Contestation of the Racial Nation 15

2. Writing Feminist Geneaology: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Reproduction of Racial Nationalism 61

3. Engels’s Originary Ruse: Race and Reproduction in the Story of Capital 106

4. Sexual Selection and the Birth of Psychoanalysis: Darwin, Freud, and the Universalization of Wayward Reproduction 145

5. The Sexual Politics of Black Internationalism: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Reproduction of Racial Globality 187

Coda: Gene/alogies for a New Millennium 227

Notes 247

Works Cited 307

Index 339
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3315-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3303-6
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